Singapore: PSI hits 64, highest level this year

Jennani Durai & Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Indonesia Correspondent Straits Times 7 Sep 12;

MUCH of Singapore was blanketed in haze yesterday, which caused the PSI to soar to its highest level this year.

In the northern and eastern parts of Singapore, the reading hit a high of 64, and ranged between 58 and 61 elsewhere. This put it out of the "good" range of 0 to 50 and into the "moderate" range of 51 to 100.

But with hot spots in the Indonesian regions nearest to Singapore drastically reduced in number from earlier this week, weather experts surmised that the pollution must have been carried in by the winds blowing from Jambi or South Sumatra, which are further away.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) advised people to limit outdoor activity and said the haze should start lifting from today.

Satellite images showed the number of hot spots in Sumatra, to the south of Singapore, at a low of 21 yesterday, down from some 400 over the weekend.

In Riau, the Indonesian forest fire-prone province closest to the Republic, the number of hot spots decreased from 98 last Saturday to none yesterday.

These regions have had rain and cloud seeding operations, said Indonesian weather forecaster Warih Budilestari.

The effects seen in Singapore yesterday were likely from forest fires concentrated in the Jambi and South Sumatra provinces a few days ago, weather forecaster Supriandi from the meteorological office in West Kalimantan told The Straits Times.

Agreeing, Assistant Professor Koh Tieh Yong from the Earth Observatory of Singapore said: "It's possible that what we see now in Singapore is the result of winds carrying haze from Jambi and South Sumatra, which had a few hot spots on Wednesday. Given the speed of the wind, what's over there is approximately one day away from us."

He said haze levels in Singapore depend both on the number of hot spots and the direction of the winds, which blow predominantly from the south-east or south-west this time of the year until September or early October.

An annual occurrence, the haze is caused by farmers and logging companies burning forests to clear land for cultivation between June and September, the region's dry season.

The NEA said prevailing winds are expected to turn and blow from the south-east or south from today, which would gradually improve the hazy conditions.

Yesterday's gloomy skies were the talk of many. Ms Joyce Pereira, in her 60s, mistook the overcast skies for an impending storm. The hotel guest relations manager said the haze gave her a dry cough and watery eyes.

Civil servant Zen Lai, 24, was at a hawker centre and thought the air was choked by vendors cooking with charcoal. On leaving the place, she realised it was like that everywhere.

Haze worsens
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 7 Sep 12;

SINGAPORE - The Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) yesterday reached its highest reading so far this year, with the readings for the northern and eastern areas recorded at 64 as at 4pm yesterday.

The PSI across the island was between 58 and 64, falling in the "moderate" range. The level of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 - a very fine pollutant which can cause respiratory problems - was at 71 in the eastern region, the highest among different parts of the island.

Yesterday's hazy skies came as general practitioners TODAY spoke to reported a spike in the number of patients they are seeing for respiratory or skin problems caused by the haze.

In an update on its website, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the situation will ease gradually in the days ahead.

However, the reprieve could be temporary. "For the following week, Singapore could still experience slight hazy conditions on some days," NEA said.

The haze was due to "an increase in hotspot activities observed over Sumatra" in the past one week. "The current prevailing winds blowing from the southwest or south have transported the haze from fires in southern Sumatra towards Singapore," the agency said.

It added that the prevailing winds are "expected to turn and blow from the southeast or south and bring a gradual improvement" to the hazy conditions from today.

NEA advised everyone to "limit prolonged or heavy exertion". For children, older adults as well as people with heart or lung disease, they were advised to "reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion".

Ms Geraldine Tan, 24, who has sinus problems, said she has been experiencing breathing discomfort. "This usually happens when the haze season rolls around. I'll generally feel very uncomfortable, and start sniffling a lot more," she said.

Dr Tan Tze Lee, a GP at Edinburgh Clinic, told TODAY the number of patients he is seeing with lung discomfort has doubled. Another GP, YS Teo Family Clinic and Surgery's Dr Victor Teo, added: "There has been more cases of upper respiratory tract infections, throat irritation, pre-existing cases of asthma and even cases of eczema over the last couple of weeks."

The GPs advised the public, especially those with pre-existing conditions, not to over-exert themselves outdoors. "They can still exercise, but probably indoors, using the treadmill or weight machine, it's just not advisable to jog outside and breathe in lots of the haze, especially if they have asthma," said Dr Teo.

Singapore sees hazier skies
Sara Grosse Channel NewsAsia 6 Sep 12;

SINGAPORE: Thursday saw hazy conditions across Singapore.

The 24-hour PSI reading at 12pm was in the moderate range of 54 to 59, with the highest reading in the east.

Air quality worsened, with the PSI reading rising slightly to 64 at 4pm for areas in the north and east.

Air quality is considered unhealthy only when the PSI reading hits above 100.

Polyclinics Channel NewsAsia spoke with said they did not see an increase in patient attendance for Upper Respiratory Tract Infection cases - which are conditions that may increase due to the haze.

However, some doctors did.

Dr Chong Yeh Woei, physician, Internal Medicine, Singapore Medical Specialists Centre, said: "My colleagues and I have seen some increase in cases, perhaps about 10 to 20 per cent increase in cases. (These include) asthmatic patients, smokers with lung disease and heart disease patients."

As the haze worsens, Dr Chong said it is important to take note of its particle size.

The particulate matter 10 (PM10) identifies particles likely to be inhaled by humans.

"Essentially it's 10 micron in size. The particles that are bigger than 10 we don't worry too much about it because they go into the throat and lodge there. But those between 2.5 and 10 will go into your lungs and stay there," said Dr Chong.

The National Environment Agency said Singapore could still experience slight haze conditions from this week on, though some gradual improvement is expected.

Some precautionary measures doctors advise taking is to avoid exercising outdoors when the PSI is high and for those with pre-existing illnesses, such as asthma, to take more caution when they go outside.

- CNA/cc